Assam first state to ban smokeless tobacco


Assam became the first state to legally ban consumption of all forms of smokeless tobacco, including pan masala containing tobacco and nicotine, through an act which comes into effect on Thursday. Taking note of the fact that smokeless tobacco accounts for 90% of oral cancers, the act also bans the manufacture, advertisement, trade, storage, distribution and sale of the substances.

On Wednesday, state health minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma informed the legislative assembly that governor JB Patnaik had given assent to the Assam Health (Prohibition of manufacturing, advertisement, trade, storage, distribution, sale and consumption of zarda, gutkha, pan masala, etc, containing tobacco and/or nicotine) Bill, 2013, on Tuesday. “The notification will be issued on Wednesday, and the law will come into force from Thursday,” Sarma said.

Violators shall be punished with imprisonment up to seven years and a fine between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5 lakh. Consumption or possession of zarda, gutka and pan masala containing tobacco shall be punished with a fine of Rs 1,000 for the first offence and Rs 2,000 for each subsequent offence.

Currently, sale, manufacture and storage of pan masala and gutka containing tobacco and nicotine have been banned for a year with effect from March 8, 2013, under the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulation, 2011. Though several states have imposed similar bans under the food safety regulation, Assam will be the first to impose the ban through legislature.

“Our department can ban the sale of tobacco but the production aspect has to be handled by the agriculture department. We cannot ban production of tobacco. If any farmer produces such products, he has to sell them outside the state,” Sarma added. According to sources in the finance department, the state stands to lose Rs 20 crore annually as a result of the ban.

The process of introducing the bill started in February last year. Apprehending delay, CM Tarun Gogoi invoked the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulation, 2011, in March to ban sale, transportation, manufacture, storage, display and distribution of tobacco-containing gutka and pan masala within the state.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s